How your menstrual cycle changes as you get older

Have you noticed any changes in your menstrual cycle as you’ve gotten older? Changes in your flow, the length of your period and PMS symptoms are common as you enter new phases in your life. In this post we’ll break down the changes you can expect in each decade, starting from the onset of your period known as menarche all the way till menopause.

Typically, menarche takes place between the ages of eleven and fifteen. During the first few years of a young menstruator experiencing their menstrual cycle, it’s common for their period to be irregular. It could take up to three years to become regular as ovulation doesn’t occur as often compared to your 20s.

Your 20s: Say hello to a more regular and predictable cycle

This is when your period becomes regular and symptoms like breast tenderness, cramps and other PMS symptoms become more common. A lot of menstruators become sexually active in their twenties and begin using birth control which can make their flow lighter and reduce PMS symptoms. For a lot of menstruators their 20s is when they start gaining a lot more responsibility and the stress of everyday life becomes unavoidable. This stress could also lead to irregular periods. PCOS also tends to be diagnosed in the 20s, so if your period lasts consistently for a week or doesn’t show up at all it could be PCOS. Pregnancy also changes your menstrual cycle, but we will discuss that in more detail below.

Your 30s: Smooth-sailing but be vigilant

For the most part, your period and PMS symptoms should be pretty much the same as your 20s. Of course, if you give birth the way you experience your period will change significantly. Your period doesn’t return immediately after giving birth and it can take up to six to eight weeks for it to return if you’re not breastfeeding. If you’re breastfeeding however, your period won’t return until you stop because ovulation doesn’t take place while breastfeeding.

Other changes with your period or menstrual cycle after giving birth include the flow becoming heavier than before. The cervical opening becomes bigger after pregnancy so the flow doesn’t need such strong uterine contractions to release the blood and tissue, resulting in an ease of cramps for some menstruators. Perimenopause can take place in your mid 30s too but it’s very rare, there’s more on it below.

Your 30s is also a common time for medical conditions to come up. If your period suddenly becomes unusually painful or heavy it could be a symptom of fibroids or uterine growths which are commonly discovered when menstruators hit their 30s. Don’t worry, most of the time they’re benign and can be treated.

Your 40s: Your body begins to prepare for menopause

Perimenopause typically begins when menstruators hit 40 and takes place about eight to ten years before menopause. Perimenopause literally means “around menopause” and refers to the changes your body makes leading up to menopause. Estrogen rises and falls throughout perimenopause causing longer or shorter menstrual cycles. You may also experience irregular bleeding and spotting due to the hormonal fluctuations. Ovulation may not always take place too. Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and issues with sleep are very common. In order to be perimenopausal, you must at the very least experience irregular periods along with some of the menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats etc. If you’re only experiencing irregular periods it could be a symptom of PCOS or a thyroid problem, and it’s advised to consult a medical professional.

Your 50s: A fresh start

Once you’ve experienced 12 consecutive months without your period you’ve hit menopause! If you experience any bleeding after this please consult a medical professional. Hot flashes can occur well into your 60s which is completely normal.